A PenFed blimp deflated, burst into flames and crashed late Thursday morning near the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
The blimp went down about 11:20 a.m. near Highway 83 and Highway 167.
The pilot was transported by Flight for Life from the area of the crash just after noon. The blimp was operated by AirSign, an aerial advertising firm with operations across the country.
The pilot is okay but suffered some burns, a spokesman for AirSign said in a telephone interview from the company's Florida office.
The pilot remained with the blimp as it slowly descended to the ground.
"He stayed with the blimp until it went down," he said, adding that a crew member on ground pulled the pilot from the wreckage.
Rescue crews from a variety of area fire departments and responded to the scene.
"It started deflating, and then it started going down," said Bryan Rosine.
"They were trying to give it some throttle and it didn't go up," he said. "Then there was a bunch of kabooms and smoke clouds."
Another witness, Tim Guetzke, said "the side started deflating. One side was going in. As it headed toward the ground, it caught fire."
The sign on the blimp advertised PenFed Credit Union. Earlier Thursday morning, AirSign tweeted about the blimp's arrival and encouraged visitors to share photos.
The blimp took off from a small privately operated air field not far from the crash site, said Dan Coffey, owner of the Air Strip WN75.
"They were going to use it all week," Coffey said. "He was flying it for hours. I don't know if the wind caught up with him or what."
Coffee said that the accident was extremely unusual.
"These airships are FAA approved. They make sure that every one is inspected," he said. "This is an extremely rare accident."
A statement distributed by the United States Golf Association said the blimp was not affiliated with the USGA or the U.S. Open.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot at this time," the USGA statement said.
The blimp crash was far from the course but the smoke that rose above the trees afterwards was terrifying.— Mike Hall (@BTNMikeHall) June 15, 2017
Rickie teeing off on No. 1.— Bill Cooney (@PGATOUR_Cooney) June 15, 2017
What I presume is smoke from the blimp crash in the background. pic.twitter.com/ZSfLRcszwH
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